Rutgers alum awarded world's premier history prize
Stephanie Jones-Rogers, a Rutgers alum and the chancellor's professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, was recently awarded the Dan David Prize, often considered the world's largest history award.
Jones-Rogers received the award in recognition of her research on the legal, economic and social connections between women and slavery, according to the press release.
She was selected for the prize as part of an annual cohort of nine history scholars, each of whom was presented with a monetary award of $300,000 by the Dan David Committee.
Jones-Rogers said her first book, "They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South," focused on the economic power that white women exerted over the institution of slavery.
She said she examined archived interviews of formerly enslaved people to understand their perception of white women who owned slaves and how these women engaged or benefitted from slavery.
The autobiographies and testimonies of formerly enslaved people were collected and preserved through a federal government initiative that occurred between the 1920s and the 1940s, according to the Library of Congress' website.
"The book really kind of traces white women's relationships to slavery and to enslaved people from the time they were little girls until the Civil War basically (severed) those relationships," Jones-Rogers said.
She said she has been currently working on her second book, "Women of the Trade," which focuses on Britain's involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and explores the experiences of English, African and mixed-race women.
Jones-Rogers said she believes that the Dan David Prize demonstrates the impact of her work on this section of history and its wide-ranging value for people not familiar with the subject.
"I just want people to recognize how vital history — the study of the human past — is to our present," she said. "It does, in fact, help us to understand what we're dealing with in the present moment … I hope that people come away from my research feeling like that connection is an important one."
Jones-Rogers said she plans to use the prize money to help fund future research expeditions to West Africa, London, the East Coast of the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Her interest in the narratives of formerly enslaved people through the perspective of women originated during her undergraduate years at Rutgers. During this time, she completed elective courses related to history and women's and gender studies outside of her psychology major, she said.
After being an undergraduate at Rutgers, Jones-Rogers said she pursued a master's degree and doctorate at the University due to the resources it offered for her and her family, including family housing and a supportive community of historians.
"Rutgers was the perfect fit for me," Jones-Rogers said. "(While attending Rutgers,) it was really the scholars first and then the resources that made my life possible — made it possible for me to study and to still take care of my family."
Regarding current students on campus with similar aspirations, she said she would advise them to keep moving forward and persisting despite the obstacles and problems they might face.
"Just keep pushing. Keep pushing in spite of what the road may look like. It may lead you to the career of your dreams," she said.